January 01, 2006

Electoral Passions

On Sunday, December 4, elections were held for the Moscow City Duma, alongside by-elections for the State Duma in two Moscow districts. Given the current state of Russian politics, the outcome was a foregone conclusion, but that did not rein in anyone’s political passions.

The main intrigue of the Moscow Duma elections revolved around the party Rodina (Motherland). The conservative party ran a commercial leading up to the election in which several dark-skinned, dark-haired men were eating watermelon and throwing their peels on the pavement, ignoring the requests of some Rodina activists to stop littering. “Do you understand Russian?” a Rodina-ite asks. This was followed by the none-too-subtle tagline: “Let’s clean our city of dirt.” The clip evoked several protests (the Azerbaijani ambassador expressed his concern) and was swiftly banned. But Rodina did not retreat, and ran the ad in French (thus hinting that the riots in France could repeat in Russia). Now it was the French ambassador’s turn to  protest. The ultra-conservative LDPR filed a complaint in court.

Meanwhile, the LDPR produced their own TV commercial, one even more blatantly racist, but it was never aired. Reportedly it contained the tagline: “For a city with Russian faces.” Rodina decided to make its own court claim – not for plagiarism, as one might perhaps expect – but “for fermenting national discord.” The upshot of the various actions was that the Moscow City Court barred Rodina from the Moscow City Duma elections; the decision was upheld by the Russian Supreme Court in a ruling two days before the election. Rodina’s claim against the LDPR was rejected.

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